mercredi, mai 31, 2006

Powerful positives

First of all, a follow-up on my "Pimp My Grill" commentary of a couple of days ago. In an effort to plumb the connection between guys and charcoal, I emailed some of my male friends and asked them to share their wisdom on grilling and gender identity. One penned a political satire. Another teased me about my willingness, as a death penalty opponent, to electrocute meat and vegetables. Two others grew mystical, quoting Thoreau and Samuel Johnson on the subject of men and fire. My sole conclusion from this experience is that many men are more experientially than analytically oriented. Which probably doesn't surprise you.

This afternoon I penned a quick note of thanks to an acquaintance at the Philadelphia Inquirer. His topic on Sunday was the growth of the Chester County Democrats and the possibility that they could give the local GOP agita in some hard fought Congressional races. My friend is a (mostly) conservative Republican, so I was touched by his even handedness. I was also interested in finding out more about the woman he profiled. The head of the local Democrats, Michele Vaughn had been defeated for local office at least once before she began her move to vitalize Chesco Democrats. But, taking the long view, she has worked extremely hard locally and on a state level to support Democratic candidates and to give them a base from which to work. In the coming elections, the Democrats have a real shot at being significant players.

I wondered why she didn't get discouraged, look around at the sad stats on Democrats in local elections and move somewhere where she'd be in the majority. Michele Vaughn and the Chesco Democrats: one illustration of the power of the positive is a person's decision not to be deterred by "realities" that might be really discouraging to someone else .

More inspiring, and less partisan, is the example of California's multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy Greenlining Institute. Recently I interviewed a program officers who works on campaign financial reform as a civil rights issue. But the main mission of the Institute is apparently to help forge innovative partnerships between minority communities and banks and other financial power brokers, bringing affordable housing and jobs to disadvantaged areas. When minorities cooperate, instead of competing for economic redevelopment funds, they become more powerful. While minorities build partnerships with big banks and other financial behemoths, they all win, creating new chances for business and employment where none existed before. It's unfortunate that humans often seem more drawn to competing than collaborating. Even a mathematical Neanderthal like me can figure out that the benefits of cooperating are exponentially greater than those of competing. Nobody in Washington seems to have caught on to this, however. Politicians don't want to be seduced by the frivolous power of collaboration across party lines. No wonder the Left Coasters who come East to go to college return West as soon as they can, where they scheme to threaten the environmental status quo and protect spotted owls and other silly species.

There is a biblical principle at work here, which is to be found in St. Paul's advice to one of his congregations: when tempted to get down on yourself or others, think about every wonderful and virtuous quality you can...soon, perhaps, you may find that you have not only made yourself a more optimistic person, but lent a hand to that sourpuss next to you!

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